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12-year sentence for man who killed woman in knife attack after jury's rejection of 'insanity' plea

Justice Paul Burns described the incident as a “brutal attack” upon “a defenceless woman”.

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A MAN WITH paranoid schizophrenia who stabbed a woman he was having an affair with to death has been jailed for 12 years.

During the trial, an American tourist described how he and his friend used a chair and a fire extinguisher to fight off Valerijs Leitons as his victim Saidrite Valdgeima lay bleeding to death in the corridor of the complex two years ago.

Sentencing 25-year-old Leitons today, Justice Paul Burns said mother-of-three Saidrite was the victim of an extremely violent and sustained knife attack. The judge described the incident as a “brutal attack” upon “a defenceless woman” but said it must be noted that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time.

He added: “There is a recognition that a mental disorder can diminish but not eliminate the degree of culpability which the accused must bear for his actions”.

Saidrite Valdgeima was stabbed over 50 times at an aparthotel in Dublin in June 2019 because her killer believed she was an enemy agent with a weapon sent to harm him.

Leitons, a Latvian man with an address at St Kevin’s Gardens, Dartry, Dublin 6, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murdering Saidrite Valdgeima (34) on 26 June 2019 at the Binary Hub aparthotel on Bonham Street, Dublin 8.

Last October, a jury rejected Leitons’ plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and returned a verdict of manslaughter but with substantially diminished responsibility due to his mental disorder.

The jury rejected the defence case that Leitons’ “deep-seated and engrained mental illness” had “crossed the threshold” of diminished responsibility and brought him into “a further place”, namely not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.

The week-long trial at the Central Criminal Court heard that Leitons and the deceased, a Latvian woman who worked as a translator, had struck up a friendship that became a sexual relationship. The couple met at a concert in May 2019 and began seeing each other frequently.

A pathologist’s report found Saidrite Valdgeima had suffered “multiple penetrating slash and stab wounds, particularly to the face, head and neck”.

Dr Allan Cala, who carried out the post-mortem examination, testified that the deceased had “defence-type injuries on both arms”. He suggested these likely happened when she tried to grab the knife or tried to block it.

The accused told gardaí that “we were playing a sexual game” when arrested on suspicion of the crime.

Before delivering the sentence today, Justice Burns said the victim and accused had met on previous occasions but only knew each other for a month prior to the killing.

Eye-witnesses, he said, had described Saidrite Valdgeima begging for help as the accused stood calmly over her saying “it was only a game”. The accused was under the delusional belief that “he was under a spy network against him” and the attack on the victim was so severe that she did not survive, said the judge.

Passing sentence, Justice Burns said the jury had concluded that Leitons knew the nature of his act, that he did know what he was doing was wrong and that he could have stopped himself from doing it.

“It is clear from the victim impact statements that the lives of the deceased’s family are devastated by the killing. Her children must find a way to recover a sense of well-being,” said the judge.

Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said Saidrite Valdgeima’s life was taken in “a horrific knife attack” and the attack had been pre-meditated to some extent. Prior to the killing, Leitons had come under mental health services and had ceased taking his medication, the court heard.

In the absence of a mental disorder, the judge pointed out that the killing would have amounted to murder and a compulsory life sentence would have been imposed on him.

However, the judge explained that the accused must “bear a degree of responsibility” for what happened that night saying: “There is a recognition that a mental disorder can diminish but not eliminate the degree of culpability which the accused must bear for his actions”.

The judge set a headline sentence of 15 year in prison. Aggravating factors included the level of violence used, the use of a knife and there being an element of premeditation albeit with a mental disorder.

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In mitigation, he noted the accused’s lack of previous convictions, his remorse and that the plea entered by the defendant was dictated by the medical report.

Leitons was sentenced to 13 years in prison with the final year suspended for a period of five years. It was backdated to 27 June, 2019.

The judge expressed his sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of the late Ms Valdgeima.

At Leitons’ sentencing hearing last December, prosecuting barrister Conor Devally SC read a victim impact statement by Ms Valdgeima’s 17-year-old daughter. She wrote that she had “been robbed of a lifetime with the person most precious to me” and that she suffered nightmares of people coming to stab her family.

Ms Valdgeima’s eldest of three daughters said the family had been “devastated” by the loss of their mother and that she herself had to become a “mother figure” to her two younger sisters.

She said that when her father woke her to tell her of her mother’s death “my heart dropped and the world stopped”. She said the family had been keen competitors in Irish dancing but that had since stopped as it was too much a reminder of her mother, who would travel with the children and support them.

Ms Valdgeima’s daughter said she wondered about her mother’s final thoughts and that she had cried herself to sleep, suffered anxiety, was in a continual state of high-alert and found it difficult to get out of bed since her mother’s death. She added that it broke her heart to answer questions about her mother’s killing from her two younger sisters.

Ms Valdgeima’s 15-year-old daughter, in her victim-impact statement, said she could not describe the hurt of not having her mother and that she would never be the same. She said her “number one best friend” was gone forever and that she would never get a hug, go Irish dancing, cook food, or go for long walks with her again.

The youngest daughter, who is seven years-old, said she was “really sad” and that she missed her mum and “all the fun stuff with her”.

About the author:

Alison O'Riordan

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